Inuyasha sat stiffly in Kaede's hut, his mind carefully blank. He could feel the cold air eddying around his body, trailing icy fingers against his bare chest. In stark contrast his left side was uncomfortably warm and sticky. His mouth tasted disturbingly of iron and salt, which seemed to indicate that he had bitten his lip at some point. Either that or he was bleeding internally - it didn't really matter. Both would heal within an hour or two.
No, what he dreaded most about being wounded, what he was trying desperately not to think of, was not the pain. Hell, he could handle the deepest cut without flinching. However, since Kagome had come into his life, he had found out that physical pain paled beside the torment of having Kagome bandage his wounds. Not that she was at all rough with him. Indeed, it was quite the opposite, and that was what was giving him the difficulty. Nothing was more painful than the exquisite torture of having Kagome's gentle hands touching his bare skin. It was agony trying to maintain a modicum of self control while his body tingled and burned at her proximity. Worst of all were chest wounds, when he would have to sit motionless for what seemed like an eternity while Kagome knelt practically in his lap and brushed delicate fingers across the sensitive skin of his stomach, the scent of her hair filling his head like smoke and driving coherent thought from his mind.
Well, not this time. This time he would exercise more self-control. He was a youkai, for crying out loud. Youkai didn't go all to pieces just because a pretty girl was tending their wounds. Self-control, that was it. He shifted in his spot, and the movement sent a sharp dagger of pain through his side. His lips whitened, and he tried to breathe deeply, and focus on something outside of the pain.
Unfortunately, his mind found a ready target in the small figure currently kneeling beside him, her soft hair tickling the skin of his uninjured arm. Kagome prepared the bandage with deft fingers, and he watched, tensing himself for what was coming.
Kagome moved behind him, and with slow, gentle movements, began to clean the wound with water. Her whisper-soft fingers brushed his heated skin, and he shivered, acutely aware of the nearness of her. She shifted beside him, until she was close enough for him to smell the delicate scent of her warm skin.
Inuyasha sat perfectly still, and tried to think of something horrible. A dead cow, bloated in the sun. Dismembered villagers. Miroku naked.
He shuddered, his mind shying away from that last thought. Some things were too disgusting to think of. Better try something more satisfying.
Hakudoushi destroyed by his Kaze no Kizu. That wimpy wolf, beaten up with his own claws, running away from Kagome with his tail between his legs. Naraku dead, his Tetsusiega slicing through his slimy body, an expression of pain and fear on his face-
Kagome's fingers brushed his bare skin on his stomach. Inuyasha jumped, unable to control the shiver that went through him.
Did she notice? He didn't dare look at her, bending all his concentration into keeping his body still and his face blank, as if he didn't care that Kagome was just inches from him, the curly ends of her hair brushing against his bare skin. As if it didn't matter that from this close to her, he was wrapped in her scent, that he was inhaling deep breaths of it with every mouthful of air. As if her closeness didn't send tingles up his spine, as if his hands weren't sweaty and his cheeks burning.
Gods, he hoped she didn't notice.
Why was he acting like this? It was not like she meant it when she touched him. She was just being her usual self, caring for him because he was hurt. She'd do the same for any of them. Hell, even Kouga-
He cut himself short. The point was that he was being foolish. Kagome's touch was perfectly innocent, and he was acting like some pervert, like some letch that couldn't keep his mind out of the gutter. He was - he felt his blood run cold – he was acting like Miroku.
A sudden inrush of air against his skin jolted him back to reality. Cool air hit his back and he shivered again, this time from the lack of warmth. He suddenly realised that Kagome was on the other side of the hut, packing her medical supplies back into her backpack. He hadn't even noticed her move, so firmly had he been focused on ignoring her. Flushing lightly, he shrugged back into his clothes, wincing as the movement jerked at his newly dressed wounds. Hot pain shot through his side.
He was sure that he hadn't made a sound, but Kagome was suddenly standing in front of him, looking down in concern.
Stupid question. Not worth answering. He was upright, he was breathing, what more did she want?
Kagome seemed not to expect an answer anyway, because she was now moving towards the door. Automatically, Inuyasha started to follow her, his head still full of the scent of her hair and the soft touch of her fingers. He shook his head as they stepped out into the bright sunlight, trying to rid himself of the uncomfortable thoughts. Gradually he became aware that Kagome was talking to him.
"I'll be back in a few days," she was saying cheerfully. "I just need to go home and get next month's homework and restock on supplies. With all the trouble we've been having I'm getting pretty low on bandages, let alone all of the painkillers we use…"
Inuyasha blinked as his brain registered the words. At the same time, he noticed the yellow backpack that was hoisted on her back. He felt the world wobble slightly, a flash of panic blacking out his sight.
She was going home.
They were both quiet on the way to the Well.
Kagome appeared to be daydreaming, content to walk beside him in silence. Inuyasha was trying to appear natural as he walked her to the Well. After all, it wasn't like she was leaving him forever. She would be back in a couple of days, just like she promised. It wasn't a big deal. Even if she was late, he could still go through the well and get her. His ears twitched furiously. It was no big deal. No big deal at all.
Despite this, as they came in sight of the Bone-Eater's Well, he couldn't control a flash of hatred directed at the innocent seeming ring of stones. Stupid well, with its stupid magic and its stupid time. It had to interfere with everything. Stupid. Stupidstupidstupidstupidstupi…
Kagome was looking at him oddly now, and he realised he was glaring daggers at the Well. He straightened immediately, and pretended that he was looking at something else away in the forest. In the corner of his eye, he thought he could see Kagome smile wryly at him. He wondered if she could guess what he had been thinking, and cringed inwardly.
If she suspected anything however, she gave no sign. Instead, she turned to him, perfectly unconcerned, and it was with a slight start that he realised that she was making her goodbyes. He shook his head, desperately trying to rid himself of the urge to grab her before she could move. Now it had come to the point, his mouth was dry and his throat had closed. Self-Control! He reminded himself furiously.
Something horrible was clenching in the pit of his stomach, but he ignored it, choosing instead to hold his nose in the air as if everything was fine. Everything was fine. He didn't care if she left. It was all the same to him…
…now if only he could make his stomach understand that.
"Ja ne, Inuyasha," Kagome said cheerfully, preparing to jump into the Well. The terrible wrenching pain under his ribs stabbed at her words, and he had taken a half step forward before he could stop himself. Kagome turned around at the movement.
"Nani?" she looked at him inquiringly.
His cheeks burned. "Nothing," he mumbled. How stupid was he? What did he think he was going to do, snatch her up and refuse to let her go home by force?
The terrible part was when he realised how tempted he was to do that very thing. How pathetic was he? Imagine if his father was here to see this, his own son almost sick at the thought of being separated from the girl he … the girl … Well, the girl he … was quite fond of … Nothing more. She was just a good friend. A good friend who smelt incredible. A good friend whose lightest touch sent shivers down his spine, and filled his mind with hazy, intoxicating thoughts …
Inuyasha slumped. Who was he kidding? He didn't even sound convincing to himself.
Kagome had taken a step towards him, concern pooling in her brown eyes. "Are…are you okay, Inuyasha?" she asked.
Of course he wasn't okay. Did he look okay? She was leaving….
Kagome was still staring at him, her head cocked to one side and a puzzled expression on her face. She probably thought he was going crazy.
He turned away abruptly. Maybe he should just go, not watch her leave. At the very least it could save him some embarrassing scenes.
"So, you'll be back in three days?" he said, trying for nonchalant.
"Mm," Kagome nodded. "At least."
"Promise?" The word slipped out of his mouth before he could prevent it, and he could have kicked himself for being unable to keep the quaver from his voice. He winced inwardly and groaned to himself. Why not shout it out to the world? Hey, everyone, come and behold the mighty Inuyasha, slayer of a thousand youkai, victor of a million battles, he who strikes terror into the hearts of his foes! Watch as he whines like a begging puppy when his shard-detector leaves!
He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from growling, and turned to leave. However, before he had taken more than a step, he felt Kagome grasp the edge of his sleeve. She tugged slightly, and he turned to face her, still scowling, to see her looking at him with the softest, sweetest expression he had ever seen in her eyes.
Leaning forward, she gave him the lightest brush of a kiss on his cheek.
"I promise," she whispered, and was gone.
Inuyasha stood alone in the sunshine in front of the Well. His cheek tingled slightly, hot against the afternoon breeze. His fingers twitched, and a lopsided grin fought its way to his face.
He couldn't wait.